Tomato is among the best dietary sources of lycopene. Actually, all tomato products are rich in lycopene. But, sun-dried tomatoes have the highest lycopene content.
Why is lycopene good for you?
Lycopene is a carotenoid. It’s a powerful antioxidant with great health benefits.
As many chronic diseases are caused by oxidative damage, we should consume antioxidants to help the body neutralize free radicals. Excess amounts of free radicals cause oxidative stress.
Hence, we should follow a diet rich in antioxidants such as vitamin E, vitamin C, polyphenols, and carotenoids. A healthy plant-based diet can provide all the antioxidant compounds that we need. Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of antioxidants.
Lycopene is one of the most powerful antioxidants. It’s twice more powerful than beta-carotene and 10 times more powerful than alpha-tocopherol. Moreover, lycopene is the most predominant carotenoid in the blood.
Other health benefits of lycopene:
- eyesight. Researchers found that lycopene can protect your eyesight. Lycopene helped in therapy against cataracts.
- bones. Lycopene is good for bone health. It can even restore bone strength.
- Alzheimer’s disease. Lycopene may delay the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
How much lycopene do we need a day?
There isn’t an official recommended daily intake for lycopene. However, many studies have reported great health benefits for a daily lycopene intake of 15-30 mg.
Most people don’t consume more than 10 mg of lycopene per day, though.
Foods high in lycopene
Furthermore, all processed tomato products, such as tomato juice, paste, soup, sauce, and ketchup contain high amounts of lycopene.
How much lycopene is in a tomato?
According to the USDA, tomato contains 2.6 mg of lycopene per 100g.
Moreover, the lycopene content of a:
- small tomato (2-2/5″) is 2.3 mg,
- medium tomato (2-3/5″) is 3.2 mg,
- large tomato (3″) is 4.7 mg,
- cup of chopped tomatoes is 4.6 mg.
In contrast, green, yellow, and orange tomato varieties are poor in lycopene.
Lycopene in tomato juice, paste, soup, sauce & ketchup
Lycopene isn’t vulnerable to heat. So, it isn’t destroyed during processing methods.
The main dietary source of lycopene in a standard Western diet is tomato products:
- tomato juice has 9 mg.
- ketchup has 14.2 mg.
- tomato paste has 7.5 mg,
- sun-dried tomatoes have 46 mg,
- tomato soup has 5.5 mg,
- tomato sauce has 16 mg.
Sun-dried tomatoes are the richest dietary source of lycopene. Most noteworthy, lycopene in processed tomato products is more bioavailable than raw tomatoes. Processing enhances the bioavailability of lycopene!
Additionally, the bioavailability of lycopene is significantly higher when we consume it along with foods rich in beta-carotene!
Why should we eat tomato?
Besides lycopene, tomato has a great nutritional value. First, tomato consumption supports weight loss, as it’s pretty low in calories. Even a large tomato contains no more than 35 calories!
Moreover, tomatoes can control appetite and decrease cravings for fattening foods. They keep us full, due to their high fiber content.
Furthermore, tomato is pretty low in sugar. Even people with diabetes and people on keto can consume it.
Also, tomatoes hydrate the body, as they’re 95% water. They replenish fluids and electrolytes. When we sweat, we lose both. So, we have to replenish them. Otherwise, mineral imbalances may occur.
Last, but not least, raw tomato is an excellent dietary source of vitamin C.